Johnny Cash is fondly remembered as one of the greatest voices in the history of country music. When it came time to casting an actor to portray the country music star on the big screen, Hollywood had their work cut out for them. As they worked on production for Walk the Line, it became clear that there was one actor who had what it takes to play the Man in Black -- Joaquin Phoenix.
Like his late brother River Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix was a child actor known for his roles in television shows like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Murder, She Wrote as well as countless films -- SpaceCamp, Parenthood, Buffalo Soldiers, The Village, To Die For, Quills, The Master, Earthlings, Inherent Vice, I'm Still Here, Ladder 49, Hotel Rwanda, and recently, his Oscar-winning role as The Joker in Joker. After years of starring in major box office films, Phoenix has an estimated net worth of $50 million. That seems about right for such a successful acting career.
Luckily, when Phoenix was cast to play Johnny Cash, the legendary singer was already a fan and fully supported the casting decision.
"Cash loved 'Gladiator,' " Walk the Line director James Mangold told MTV. "He knew all the lines."
"He was thrilled," the director said of Cash's reaction to the casting of Phoenix in his biopic. "John was a very trusting man. He was very easygoing, a very cool guy. When you've got someone like Joaquin who, frankly, is very similar, a very cool actor, John knew that we were moving in the right direction."
Before even getting cast in the role, Phoenix was lucky enough to meet Johnny Cash in person. The experience was definitely memorable, especially when Cash quoted his favorite line from Phoenix's character Commodus in Gladiator, a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
"I was invited over to dinner at his friend's house," Phoenix explained on Late Night With Conan O'Brien.
"And, went over and it was an amazing experience. I can't tell you what that's like, words can't describe. John and June were just beautiful people...John stopped me on my way out, he was a real fan of this movie I did, Gladiator."
It seemed Cash was right to put his faith in Phoenix because the actor won a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of the country star and was nominated for an Oscar. The soundtrack even won a Grammy Award and featured recordings of Phoenix as well as his co-star Reese Witherspoon, who played June Carter Cash in the film.
Outside of his career, Phoenix is a passionate advocate for animal rights and has been involved with PETA for years. He also welcomed his first child, named River after his brother, with actress Rooney Mara.
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This article previously ran in 2021.
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